“The evaluation is completed and it is staying put” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James in reply to a question at yesterday’s hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. James had been asked about the possible relocation of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) from its current location in Arlington, VA to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH.
The Air Force posted a Request for Information on the impacts of a relocation of this office on January 24th. Reaction to this proposal was swift. An example is a letter from the President of the American Physical Society, an AIP Member Society, expressing concern about how the relocation would “severely limit” AFOSR’s interactions with other basic research agencies in the Washington, D.C. area; the loss of institutional knowledge; and a shift in AFOSR’s culture from an emphasis on basic research to applied research. The move would, the letter said, “cripple the Air Force’s long-term basic research program.” Senior officials from fifteen major research universities expressed similar concerns; both letters are available here.
It was during yesterday’s hearing on the “Posture of the Department of the Air Force” that Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) asked about the possible relocation. He began by describing the budget uncertainty confronting the Air Force and how that has lessened. Addressing Secretary James, Kaine spoke of the important work conducted by AFOSR and how it “operates in a significant synergy” at its current location with the National Science Foundation, DARPA, and the Office of Naval Research. Kaine noted that this was not the first time this relocation had been considered. He asked James about the status of the evaluation that was being made about whether AFOSR should be relocated, the timing of a possible move, and its ramifications. James replied “The evaluation is completed and it is staying put.”
Kaine did not pose a follow-up question. Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) commented “we’re all delighted.”
This exchange can be found at 2:07 (two hours and seven minutes) on the archived webcast.